We are collaborating with Land Care Niagara to help identify bat overwintering sites, and to encourage the public to record any observations of bats in their neighborhood!
Keep reading for more information about Bats in Ontario.
Many bat species feed on flying insects! Healthy bat populations help to control herbivorous pests which helps to reduce foliage damage to our agricultural crops, allowing for more efficient farming and produce yield!
Bats are especially good at spreading fertilizer because they fly across the landscape and can roost in different trees each night.
Bats are sensitive to environmental changes, and can respond quickly to disturbances. Therefore, the presence of bats in an ecosystem can reflect a well-balanced and healthy ecosystem.
Ontario's Endangered Species Act (ESA) defines critical habitat as an area on which a species depends directly or indirectly to carry out its life processes. Life processes include reproduction, rearing, hibernation, migration or feeding and places where SAR aggregate. We currently have four SAR bats in Ontario and all four species are listed as endangered due to their high risk of extinction caused by a fungal disease called "White nose syndrome". The virulent fungus invades the respiratory tract of hibernating bats or invades wing lesions causing infected bats to awaken frequently during hibernation. This constant disruption affects the animals physiological state by using up fat reserves resulting in energy depletion and eventually death.
Little Brown Myotis, Northern Myotis, and Tri-colored Bat hibernation habitat include underground openings such as caves, abandoned mines, wells and tunnels, although buildings may also be used by Little Brown Myotis. All resident bats in Niagara, Hamilton and Haldimand, including the four SAR bats, exhibit site fidelity to their hibernacula. Additionally, all species may be found hibernating communally and in large aggregations (swarms) near their hibernaculum.
Little Brown Myotis, Northern Myotis and Tri-colored Bat are tree dwelling bats during the active season. They tend to use older forested stands for maternity roosting habitat because the older trees often have higher snag availability for roosting. The Little Brown bat will also use buildings and other human structures.
Environmental Impact Studies (EISs) are required during the development planning process in Ontario when a development is proposed within or nearby a potential Natural Heritage Feature (NHF) or the adjacent lands (120m) of a recognized NHF. Plan review agencies use the information within the EIS to determine whether a potential NHF requires protection under the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS). There are
“tests ” that a potential NHF must meet to be protected under the PPS. One of these tests is the presence of species at risk (SAR) or SAR habitat as confirmed by the province of Ontario as it falls under Endangered Species Act (ESA). When there is insufficient data on species presence within or nearby an NHF, the planning authorities look to the province to provide advice/methods and review of the data collected, especially regarding species at risk.
Since the current understanding of bat critical habitat includes mature trees (>10 cm DBH) as potential maternity roosting sites, this flags almost any forested area in the region for potential bat habitat. This means environmental consultants should almost always be screening and surveying for bats!
The current protocol to survey for bats includes using stationary acoustic detectors that are placed across the site at a density of 1 per 0.25 ha, and for 10 consecutive days during the month of June. This method has been found to be extremely expensive, less effective and overall less suited for smaller woodlots and forests.
8Trees Inc. has since put forward an alternate sampling design for small sites (< 2ha) that includes a roving acoustic monitoring technique, using affordable smart phone or iPad app technology and a hand-held Wildlife Acoustic bat microphone. We have found this method to be more efficient in many ways for detecting presence of SAR bat species.
The above figure shows echolocation frequencies of Little Brown Myotis, from one of our surveys in Niagara.